Buzz Fest showcases rebranded Hornets franchise in Charlotte

The Charlotte Hornets' 2014 Buzz Fest was held at the 250,000-square-foot Charlotte Convention Center this week.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over a year ago, members of the then-Charlotte Bobcats front office had an inkling that if and when the original NBA nickname returned to Charlotte the city would definitely be abuzz.

So, when the team once again officially became the Charlotte Hornets in May, team executives devised a way to throw a celebration to welcome the name back to where it belonged, while at the same time providing a first-rate fan experience.

Thus, Buzz Fest 2014 was born. And it has certainly lived up to its name.

"This really started back in the spring of 2013," said Seth Bennett, senior vice president of marketing, entertainment and interactive media for the Hornets. "This was nothing more than a give-back to the fans and city. Honestly, it was an easy pitch to our corporate partners."

Just to put things in perspective of just how big and how many things happened, the two-day event incorporated all 250,000 square feet of the Charlotte Convention Center to put forth a fan experience like the city hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years, when the 1994 Final Four was in town and a week-long party was held.

Officials are expecting more than 15,000 people to parade through the event and soak in the activities. And why not? Buzz Fest had nearly everything a Hornets fan could want. There were meet-and-greets with original Hornets like Kelly Tripucka, who led Charlotte with 22.6 points per game in its first year of existence in the NBA during the 1988-89 season, Johnny Newman, Mike Gminski and J.R. Reid.

"That was a special time for Charlotte and the team," said Gminski, who played from 1990-94 with the Hornets and is now a commentator for ACC games for Fox Sports. "That era will always mean a lot to this city. It was magical. Now, it’s nice to see that excitement starting to come back after having been away for so long."

Fans got to watch the 2014-15 version of the Hornets practice on Saturday. And if that wasn’t enough basketball for you, there were also youth basketball tournaments on site. Music superstar Nelly, a minority owner with the Hornets, was on hand, as were musical groups Big & Rich, Diggy Simmons, Elle Varner and Nico & Vinz, not to mention all the hands-on activities for kids of all ages.

Bennett said that team put on such a big showcase for the fans because the team wanted to make sure that everybody had the capability to experience and feel a part what feels like a new beginning for the franchise.

"We knew that there’d be so many people in the community that wouldn’t be able to feel it or touch it because of the sellout on opening night (Wednesday against Milwaukee)," he said. "This way, we get outside of the arena and can touch more fans."

Not to be missed in all of this is that it also gives the Hornets a chance to showcase to the NBA league office just how well it can throw a party and put on events. The team has put in a bid to host either the 2017 or 2018 NBA All-Star Game.